In memory of her late son, Diane Brokaw is hosting the fifth annual Stuff the Stocking for Zach fundraiser through Jan. 10.
Her goal is to raise $10,000 to send more than 400 fourth graders in Woodstock School District 200 to the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford for the second year in a row.
Last year, she raised $8,800 and sent 425 fourth graders to the museum, and she said she hopes to do the same for years to come. Brokaw said she feels fourth graders are at an age where they still are enthusiastic about learning.
By benefiting children in the community and promoting Zach’s passions, Brokaw said, this fundraiser provides his family something positive to focus on during the holidays.
“It’s something that brings me great joy every Christmas to be able to enrich the lives of so many youth in the community,” she said. “I know that Zach would be very happy to see this come to fruition.”
The museum choice commemorates Zach Brokaw’s love for nature and enthusiasm to learn outside the classroom, Brokaw said. Zach was his high school class salutatorian, an Eagle Scout, an avid birdwatcher and the nature director at a Boy Scout camp.
“In my baby book, I went back and saw at 8 months his favorite thing to do was look out the window and watch the birds,” Brokaw said.
The fundraiser also is a chance for Brokaw to raise awareness about the danger of “drowsy driving.” Her son died in 2015 when he fell asleep within 20 minutes of being behind the wheel. He was 20 years old.
“It doesn’t have to happen at night. It doesn’t have to have drugs or alcohol involved. They were just tired from working, and they fell asleep and hit another car head-on,” Brokaw said.
Since the crash, Brokaw said a few of her son’s friends have fallen asleep behind the wheel, as well. She said she knows others in her support group who also have lost their children to drowsy driving.
“It’s an epidemic,” she said. “It really is.”
Brokaw launched Stuff the Stocking at Christmastime the year Zach died. That first year, she sent Zach’s local Boy Scout troop ziplining and indoor skydiving. The subsequent two years, Brokaw distributed more than 1,300 nature-related children’s books and 170 “Backpacks for Birding,” which included binoculars and field guides.
The positive responses she received from the community about the fundraiser made her decide to do it yearly, Brokaw said.
To donate to the campaign, send a check to Brokaw at Woodstock School District 200, c/o Diane Brokaw, 8912 Route 120, Woodstock, or via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations will be accepted through Jan. 10.